Remembering Tony Gwynn, Mr. Padre, No. 19

For a brief few seconds on Monday, it seem liked the world stood still. It had to have for some of us. The news of Tony Gwynn’s passing at age 54 due to cancer, certainly came to us as sad, but shock as well. Perhaps for those who remember his career, even those that had grand opportunity to see him play, we are still in mourning; 54 years-old, too young to go. In time however, the sadness will subside and the great memories of a first-ballot hall of fame career will remain.

That’s what Gwynn became in 2007, alongside Cal Ripken Jr. Deserving for the two as their careers overlapped each other. While Ripken was known as baseball’s blue-collar baseball, its “iron man,” Gwynn had the iron for pure-contact.

And both played for only one team in two decades of MLB service.

The art of hitting a baseball, not easy, one of the most difficult task in all of sports, if not at the top. For Gwynn, making contact became second nature. While examining the stats of “Mr. Padre” one number stands in my mind, 22. In his career, Gwynn struck out an average of 22 times. As impressive as this comes to mind, let’s understand this, he had a career batting average of .338, which comes to show how difficult picking-up a base hit can be. Connecting on a baseball 3 out of 10 times safely for a hit is consider excellent, but that brings the attention of what could have been in 1994. In a season of could’ve, should’ve and would’ve, Gwynn got credit for a.394 average through 110 games until the strike force the wipeout of what was in-place to be a memorable year. If the season had gone to its full, a .400 season would have been accomplished. Instead, we are left to debate.

Never before has San Diego seen such a celebrated sports figure like Gwynn, who never left his Southern California roots, only to skipper the San Diego State baseball program. Then again, that sounded like the person who Gwynn was, never putting himself above anybody or his team, the San Diego Padres.

RIP, No. 19, San Diego Padres, then, now and forever.

Frank Sprankle

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